Features// Need for Speed's Hideous History

Posted 3 Jan 2012 09:50 by
This opens up the option for some classic NfS long-distance point-to-point races. Using the Frostbite 2 game engine, Black Box should have been able to render them gorgeously, but somehow failed to do so.

With a few notable exceptions the landscapes look tired and rehashed from previous NfS games. The iconic experience of driving coast to coast somehow reduced to a few generic USAesque vistas, with elements such as covered bridges and grain elevators thrown in as visual shorthand.

Instead of the classic we should have been delivered, we have the usual second-rate game. It looks OK, the handling is OK, the cut-scenes and storyline are OK, the user interface is adequate. It's all so interminably mediocre. But you can feel, underneath? a good game dying to burst out.

As you progress across the United States, incrementally closing on the Big Apple, you play the usual races with either an open field of cars, or with a smaller field, who you have to battle and beat one by one. There are head to head challenges, and cop car chases.

There are even a few levels featuring goons with guns and a helicopter. Really it should be awesome. But somehow it's just not. The Cop Cars are inexplicably fast one second but you can leave them for dead the next.

Spike Strips and Takedowns, featured to good effect in last year's Hot Pursuit are notably absent from the gameplay. Crashes are spectacularly unspectacular when compared to those in the Burnout games, which they so clearly emulate, but dramatically fail to equal.

And suddenly, less than two hours into the game, I'm in the top four, with just three racers to beat. Strangely, these final three are ALL guys who I have already beaten back a ways. And since I have been working my way up the pack, passing people inexorably, and no one has passed me, I'm confused. Did these guys hitch a ride in that copter that was shooting at me a few staged back?

In the very last chapter, The Run throws everything at you: collapsing bridges, exploding barrels, more collapsing bridges, oncoming tube trains and then even more collapsing bridges.

What was supposed to be a racing game turns into a remember-the pattern-style game more typical of a poorly designed platformer.

I battle and I battle but CANNOT get into first place when suddenly, with me trailing by around 200 metres, we cut to a cutscene, and my car and that of the main antagonist drift round a corner in neck and neck contention.

I get control back and I hit the boost. I'm in the lead, a lead I did not earn, and do not deserve. But I'm ready to fight to hold on to it as we crash through a gate and into a narrow area between piles of shipping containers.

When, cut (again) to a cutscene showing my opponent crashing? and? WTF! It's all over. Then there's some malarky about: ?a few hours later, in central Manhattan? where I?m in a diner with a female character who is just too plasticcy and plain to be a female video game character and bam! it's over.

Two hours and 4 minutes of frankly second rate tedium. I am appalled.

Need for Speed has been touched by the hand of greatness with Hot Pursuit (the latest one). Criterion have left their mark on the series.

The unexpected flipside of this is that every subsequent game is going to look very dull and tarnished unless that greatness can be brought back to the franchise. The Run had the premise and the promise to be the second best need for speed game ever. And first loser it certainly is!
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